Francis Gary Powers Jr. to featured speaker at Nov. 6 formal event

Staff Report

Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation (PCVF) will present the 24th annual Military Ball to honor local veterans and active duty service members from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. The event will feature guest speaker Francis Gary Powers Jr, an author, historian and lecturer.

The Military Ball is a formal event where attendees can connect and celebrate during an evening of live music, cocktail hour, silent auction, three-course dinner and dancing. Guests will also have a chance to shop in PCVF’s GI Bag pop-up shop. GI Bags are individually crafted handbags and totes from donated upcycled military uniforms. 

PCVF co-founding director John Blankenship invites the greater Santa Barbara community, fellow service members and friends of PCVF to attend.

“We look forward to welcoming our guests back to the 24th annual Military Ball after missing this event last year,” he said. “We’ve developed a logistical plan to create a safe, inviting, in-person atmosphere where we can enjoy a wonderful evening of conversation and camaraderie.

“PCVF is looking forward to honoring our local veterans, so when you see someone at the ball in their dress uniform, be sure to say ‘Thank you for your service.’”

Guests will enjoy the rhythmic sounds of The Replicas Music, a team of professionally trained musicians and singers who have toured and recorded with top names in the music industry. The Replicas have entertained for organizations such as NASA, Google, LinkedIn, GM, Ford, AppFolio and UBS Bank. They recently performed at the famous Rainbow Room in New York City.

The evening program will open with a color guard, representing all four branches of the military.

Guest speaker Powers is the son of Francis Gary Powers Sr., who was involved in one of the most consequential events of the Cold War — the downing of the American CIA U-2 spy plane he piloted over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960.

Powers Jr. consulted for the Steven Spielberg Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies,” which tells the story of James Donovan, who brokered the 1962 spy exchange between KGB spy Rudolph Abel and Powers Sr., who was captured by the KGB, subjected to a televised show trial, and imprisoned, all of which created an international incident.

Powers Sr. was exonerated of any wrongdoing on his return to the U.S., yet a cloud of controversy lingered until his death in 1977. “Spy Pilot,” a new book authored by Powers Jr., details the U-2 Incident and controversial Cold War legacy that involves his father. Published in 2019, this new account of his father’s life is based on personal files not previously available.

Powers Jr. sets the record straight by researching old audio tapes, the transcript of his father’s debriefing by the CIA, other recently declassified documents about the U-2 program, and interviews with his military colleagues.

Powers Jr. is the founder/chairman emeritus of The Cold War Museum, a 501(c) (3) charity. He founded the museum in 1996 to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period.

As chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Cold War Theme Study he works with the National Park Service and leading Cold War experts to identify historic Cold War sites for commemorating, interpreting and preservation. 

Powers Jr. is also the author of “Letters from a Soviet Prison” (2017), serves as a board member of the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near Omaha, Nebraska, and is an honorary board member of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

Because of his efforts to honor Cold War veterans, the Junior Chamber of Commerce selected Powers Jr. as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans for 2002. He lectures internationally and appears regularly on C-SPAN, the History, Discovery, and A&E Channels.

Tickets to the Military Ball are $175 per guest. Dress uniform or black-tie attire is optional. Enhanced COVID-19 health and safety measures will be in place and space is limited to 300 guests.

To purchase tickets, visit:

For more about Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, visit or call 805-259-4394.